Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are off to a
good start without Terrell Owens.
Romo threw for 353 yards and three long touchdowns Sunday,
helping the Cowboys begin the post-T.O. era with a 34-21 victory
that ruined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' debut under coach Raheem
Miles Austin avoided two tacklers on the sideline to score on a
42-yard reception just before halftime and Roy Williams streaked
through a mistake-prone secondary on a 66-yard TD play early in
the third quarter.
Romo teamed with Patrick Crayton, who had six catches for 135
yards, on the longest completion of the Pro Bowl quarterback's
career - 80 yards - for a fourth-quarter TD that thwarted any
realistic hopes for a Tampa Bay comeback.
Byron Leftwich completed 25 of 41 passes for 276 yards and no
interceptions, but took a beating from a relentless pass rush
once Romo put the Cowboys in control. Cadillac Williams and
Derrick Ward each scored on 1-yard runs for the Bucs, who rushed
for 174 yards but eventually had to abandon the running game.
Cadillac Williams, back after having surgery twice in 15 months,
finished with 97 yards on 13 carries. Ward was the catalyst on a
long second-half drive that briefly put the Bucs back in the
Both teams are coming off seasons that ended with December
collapses that cost them playoffs berths. The Cowboys lost three
of four down the stretch to finish 9-7, and the Bucs lost four
straight after a 9-3 start and fired coach Jon Gruden, replacing
him with Morris.
Dallas' biggest offseason move was getting rid of Owens and
making Roy Williams the lead receiver, a role he's excited about
after spending the first 5 1/2 years of his career in Detroit
and struggling in Owens' shadow after being obtained from the
Lions at the trade deadline last season.
Romo completed his first two passes to the 6-foot-3, 215-pound
Williams, but the duo remained relatively quiet until the
receiver's big third-quarter catch put the Cowboys up 20-7.
Williams went in motion on the play, turned upfield and ran past
safety Sabby Piscitelli and made the catch splitting two
defenders. Cornerback Ronde Barber dived and got a hand on
Williams, but couldn't make the tackle.
Leftwich wasn't sacked at all by a defense led by DeMarcus Ware,
however he did take several hard shots in the fourth quarter.
The seventh-year pro led an 11-play, 84-yard drive that Ward
capped with his TD that trimmed Tampa Bay's deficit to 20-14
with 13:45 remaining in the game.
Two plays later, Romo picked up a blitz and found Crayton wide
open on the right sideline and the receiver easily outran
Piscitelli and Jermaine Phillips to restore the Cowboys'
Marion Barber's 6-yard TD run finished Dallas' scoring. The Bucs
marched 74 yards in the closing minutes to score on Leftwich's
2-yard pass to Kellen Winslow.